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The dirtiest part of your bathroom

Toilets take a lot of abuse, and some people are phobic about touching them – especially those in public restrooms. Your bathroom (heck, any bathroom!) has a bad reputation for being dirty, and frankly, it’s well deserved. Yes, your bathroom is dirty, but it’s not entirely your toilet’s fault! Your bathroom habits can make a bad situation worse. Much worse.

Here’s what’s hanging around in your loo and what you can do about it.

Mold

Ah, mold. No one likes mold. It stinks. It stains. It can make you sick. Some molds can kill you. (On the other hand, penicillin – also a mold – can save your life.) It’s hard to get rid of. There’s not much to like about mold. Mold can thrive on porous surfaces, like grout, wood and plaster.

Mold is a fungus, so it reproduces by way of spores. Spores can remain dormant until they find conditions they like. Because your bathroom is a wet space, your battle with mold will pretty much never end. Ventilation is a good antidote to mold. Mold loves water, so if you can keep your bathroom dry, you can cut down significantly on any mold growth there.

Leaks of any kind will contribute to and support mold growth. Always address leaks immediately, whether they’re from the sink, toilet or bathtub.

If you have carpeting in your bathroom, you’re going to get mold growth there. If possible, remove carpeting and replace it with a hard surface flooring material – preferably a non-porous one. Wash the window curtains, shower curtains and rugs regularly, and use a small amount of bleach in the wash to kill any volunteer growth. At the minimum, clean your bathroom once per week and more frequently if it’s heavily used.

Important side note about mold: Many varieties of mold are black in color, but that doesn’t mean they’re “black mold.” Stachybotrys chartarum is the bad actor known as “black mold.” The black stuff that appears in your bathroom around the shower is probably Alternaria. Alternaria’s not totally harmless, since it can aggravate asthma and cause allergic reactions. The good news is that even though it’s black and it’s mold, it’s not black mold. A mild bleach solution will kill Alternaria. So will vinegar. Drying your bathroom walls and ventilating the bathroom after taking a shower will also discourage Alternaria from growing.

Mildew

Mildew is actually white, so if something is growing in your bathroom that has a color other than white, it’s not mildew. It’s probably a mold of some kind. Mildew is also a fungus, so the same attack strategy for mold will work on mildew.

Yeast

Another member of the fungus crowd. Vinegar or bleach will do the deed on yeast, but so will hot water – 122°F or better. (That’s a scalding temperature, so your water heater might not be of help here.)

Bacteria

Coliforms: Coliforms are fecal bacteria. Yes, they originate in poop. It’s entirely possible that you have more fecal bacteria on your toothbrush holder than you do on your toilet seat. How could that even be?

First, coliforms can’t really survive well outside the human body, so most of the coliforms in your bathroom will be dead. (Good.) Coliform bacteria gets aerosolized and distributed around your bathroom when you flush the toilet with the lid open. Second, it accumulates on your toothbrush holder when you don’t clean that regularly. Quick fix: close the lid when you flush the toilet and clean your toothbrush holder more often.

Staph: Common, and likes to hang out around the toilet and on faucet handles. Your bathroom could also harbor streptococcus, E. coli, Pseudomonas, etc. A disinfectant cleaner like Lysol will kill the overwhelming majority (99.9%) of these lowlifes.

“Pink mold:” “Pink mold” is not mold. It’s actually a bacteria also known as Serratia marcescens. It feeds on soap scum and shampoo residue, which is why it likes your bathtub so much. This bacteria has the chops to make you sick, so getting rid of it is a good idea. Avoid direct contact with it, but a good detergent or spray cleaner should neutralize it. Remove any buildup of soap residues by cleaning the bathtub regularly to inhibit the growth of this bacteria.

As plumbers, we don’t clean bathrooms (except our own), but we can help you address leaks and other plumbing problems. Call the plumbing experts at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911. We’ll help you find and eliminate water leaks and other plumbing problems!

Photo Credit: Tony Webster, via Flickr

New Lead Free Plumbing Alloy Could Get The Lead Out

Researchers at Purdue University say they’ve developed a new plumbing alloy that can eliminate the use of lead in plumbing fixtures. The alloy is a manganese and copper blend that is stronger and easier to mold than current lead free plumbing alternatives.

One reason the new combination is so interesting is that both copper and manganese solidify at the same temperature. Typically, different metals harden at different temperatures, which can allow the resulting alloy to become porous, and interfere with strength and other properties. Since copper and manganese solidify at the same temperature, they behave more like a pure metal. Initial testing shows that the new alloy does not develop porous qualities like other alloys can.

The idea of using lead free alloys in plumbing is not new. Since the late-70’s, the plumbing industry has made a major effort to reduce or eliminate the use of lead -even in small amounts. Lead-free solder, lead free pipes and lead-free fixtures are standard today, however some lead can still leech into water systems.

Brass – a common plumbing material for fixtures and valves – can contain lead, which can leech into standing water. Old plumbing solder was typically a mixture of tin and lead. As plumbing joints age and deteriorate, lead from old solder can also enter the water supply.

Another exciting property of the new alloy is that it is relatively inexpensive to make. Copper and manganese are both reasonably available materials. In production, the new alloy is comparable (or perhaps a little less expensive) than current lead free alternatives. The Purdue team will now look to scale up its production in test plumbing applications to learn more about it.

Removing lead from your plumbing system is important to your health and the health of your family. Lead is toxic in any quantity, and there is no safe or acceptable level of lead in a water system. Even systems that don’t contain lead pipes can still acquire lead particles – mainly from older fixtures and old, lead-based solder joints.

While it’s hard to believe, some homes also still have a water line that’s made of lead. You can see whether you have a lead line by looking at the pipe that connects your water meter to the municipal water supply. Lead is a soft, dull silver-colored metal. If you have a dull grey or silver colored water line attached to your meter, take a small flat-head screwdriver and try to scratch the surface of the pipe. You could also press the flat blade of the screwdriver into the pipe. If the screwdriver can scratch the pipe or make an impression, your water line is probably made of lead.

If you touch the pipe, wash your hands afterwards. You can only absorb lead by ingestion or inhalation. While you cannot absorb lead through your skin, touching the pipe can deposit lead particles or lead dust on your hands, which you can then ingest accidentally.

Replacing your lead water line with a safer material can remove an immediate health hazard and give you peace of mind. If you would like more information about replacing a lead water line, or removing lead from your home’s plumbing system, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to inspect your home’s plumbing system and identify potential lead hazards.

Photo Credit: Richard King, via Flickr

Plumbing as a career

If you’re looking for a career, a new career or a better career, consider plumbing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the plumbing industry is wide-open. Experts expect employment to grow by 16% 2016-2026. Better still, the median salary for a plumber in 2018 exceeded $25 per hour. Some plumbers even report making six-figure salaries.

Plumbing is a skilled trade, which means that you will spend time working with a licensed master plumber in an apprentice position while you learn. As an apprentice, your ultimate goal is to become a master plumber. That process can take several years because you’ll need to complete both classroom and on-the-job instruction. You’ll work as a journeyman plumber for awhile as you accumulate work experience. Once you’ve completed all of the journeyman training and work requirements, you can become a master plumber.

As a licensed plumber, you can work in a commercial setting, a residential setting or both. In addition to the sink-and-toilet plumbing you know, you could also work in highly specialized commercial settings, like power plants, hospitals, manufacturing facilities and water treatment plants. Plumbers also install gas lines and fire suppression systems.

Every year in Massachusetts, about 75% of high school graduates go on to college. For the other 25%, a plumbing apprenticeship pays you a good salary while you learn on the job. You can also put yourself in a position to have a stable, high-earning, high-demand career within just a few years.

If you’d like more information about how to get into a plumbing apprenticeship program, or you’d simply like more information about plumbing as a career, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to talk to you about job opportunities and the job training requirements for plumbing as a career.

Photo Credit: Natalie Wilkie, via Flickr

Life without indoor plumbing? Is that still a thing?

According to a report earlier this month, nearly 25% of households in Russia lack indoor plumbing. While that’s hard to accept, it’s apparently true. The majority of the affected households are in rural areas. Only about 9% of urban-dwellers in Russia lack indoor sanitation.

It’s at this point we should mention that according to a recent American Communities Survey, 630,000 US households also lack an in-house outhouse. So what gives?

Historically speaking, indoor plumbing is a relatively new thing. By the 1930’s in the United States, new construction included indoor plumbing as a standard design element. Likewise, owners of many older homes retrofitted plumbing into these structures. However, Census data from that time show that in 1950, the indoor plumbing revolution had yet to reach about 25% of US homes.

Indoor plumbing – as defined by the Census Bureau, includes:

  • Toilet
  • Bathtub
  • Running water

If you’ve got at least these three, you’ve got the whole kit. Areas in the US that are still waiting for indoor plumbing include very rural areas, Native American reservations, Appalachia and Southern Texas. Here’s a surprise. According to the American Communities Survey, in 2017 more than 9,000 Massachusetts homes did not have complete plumbing facilities. Nearly 600 of these homes were in Suffolk County.

Most people in the US today take indoor plumbing for granted, but ye Olde Outhouse has not yet been relegated to the history books anywhere in the world. Good sanitation makes for good, healthy communities, so taking care of your plumbing should be a priority.

Tips for taking care of your indoor plumbing

There are some major plumbing repairs that require a trained professional, but you can take a few simple actions to care for your plumbing. Regular maintenance can help limit your exposure to major plumbing failures.

  • Keep your drains running clean and clear.
  • Address leaks when you find them.
  • Check your fixtures regularly (sinks, tubs, toilets, faucets, water heaters) for leaks, cracks and wear
  • In the winter, keep your home’s temperature high enough to discourage frozen pipes
  • Drain your garden hoses and drain the bibs before winter!

When you do need a hand with your plumbing (or if you live in one of the 600 Suffolk County houses without plumbing), give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to help out!

Photo Credit: Mark Bray, via Flickr

Eliminating water hammer

If you’ve never heard of water hammer, you’ve probably never heard water hammer. Water hammer is your plumbing’s reaction to valves in your system opening and closing quickly. The sound – which can be loud and sometimes scary – is a result of fast-moving water hitting a suddenly closed valve. It’s essentially a type of shock inside your pipes.

Water hammer can be more than an annoyance. It can also cause damage to your pipes and appliances. When a valve is open in your plumbing system, the water – which is still under pressure – is flowing. Some fixtures need to control water flow quickly and precisely. That would include your washing machine, dishwasher, and toilets; you definitely don’t want these devices overflowing! Standard faucets can also trigger water hammer, but because you manually control their shut-off, they’re less likely to cause it.

Water travels in one direction in your plumbing. When a valve closes quickly, the water stops exiting the system instantly – but it’s still being pushed by the municipal supply. When the flowing water hits a closed valve, it does so with a lot of force. The shock of impact transfers to the rest of your system (and all of the attached fixtures), as the system tries to absorb this blow. That’s when you hear the pounding and banging associated with water hammer. This noise may not be a one-time event. It may take the system a few tries to distribute the shock force effectively.

The effects of water hammer

As you might imagine, over time, this kind of abuse takes its toll on your plumbing. Water hammer can damage faucets and fixtures to the point of leaking. It can also damage appliances over time. Finally, if the pressure from the municipal supply is very high, water hammer can cause pipe damage! In short, water hammer is a situation you will have to address, one way or another.

In some plumbing systems, water hammer is all but guaranteed. The longer your supply line from the municipal system, the more likely you are to experience water hammer. Since you’re unlikely to be able to shorten your supply line, you can modify your plumbing to accommodate the shock.

Another component of water hammer is how the offending valve is being closed. Usually, appliances like washing machines and dishwashers have automatic valves. These valves open and close suddenly and precisely because the appliance mechanically controls them. This is another situation that you probably can’t change, but it can cause water hammer.

Also, municipal systems operate under higher pressures because they have to deliver a lot of water to a lot of customers. It’s entirely likely that the pressure from your municipal supply is too high for your plumbing. This also causes water hammer.

Correcting water hammer

Water pressure is actually one element of water hammer you can control. You can place a regulator on your system just after the meter to reduce the incoming water pressure. If you have a serious problem with water hammer, or chronically leaking fixtures, you might want to have your incoming pressure measured and regulated.

The other, more common way to address water hammer is to install air chambers near the offending valves. An air chamber is a closed, vertical add-on to your plumbing system that normally stays empty. When an appliance valve shuts off, the extra pressure compresses the air in the chamber, giving the shock wave somewhere to go.

If you’re experiencing water hammer and you already have air cushions in your system, it’s possible that they’ve just filled with water. To correct this, you can turn off the shut-off valve(s) to that part of your plumbing system, open the closest tap and let the water drain out. This will empty the air cushion(s). Open the shut-off valves again, and the system should operate quietly. You may have to repeat this periodically if your system is prone to water hammer.

If you don’t have air cushions, a plumber can install them. This will reduce the wear and tear on your plumbing and your appliances. It’s a good solution to counteract the causes of water hammer that you can’t control. It will also save you money by eliminating the need for repairs for your fixtures, appliances and plumbing.

If you’re experiencing water hammer and you would like to correct it, please contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to help you eliminate water hammer in your home.

Photo Credit: Bill Smith, via Flickr

Why you should fix your leaking faucet

We’ll be the first to admit that in the grand scheme of things, a drop of water isn’t a lot of water. But the water that leaks from a drippy faucet can add up over time. The average drop of water is a mere 0.25 of a milliliter. In other words, it would take more than 15,000 drops added together to come up with a gallon of water.

But before you dismiss your leaking faucet as some other day’s problem, consider this. If your faucet drips once every five seconds, that’s twelve drops per minute. It’s also 720 drops every hour, and 17,280 drops per day. Which adds up to 6,307,200 drops per year. In the bigger picture, that’s more than 400 gallons of water that goes through your meter and right down your drain. If your faucet drips faster than that or you have multiple drippy faucets, you’re losing even more water.

To be fair, a “drop” of water isn’t uniform, so the precise amount of water your leaky faucet is releasing will vary. The US Geological Survey offers a drip calculator to estimate the cost of a broken faucet. Their calculator is also based on assumptions about the size of a drop of water, and the rate of the leak.

In the United States today, leaky plumbing accounts for about one-sixth of our water consumption. You read that correctly; one out of every six ounces of treated water goes down the drain, never having been used. While water is a “renewable” resource – every trip it makes through your meter costs money! A lost drop here or there isn’t enough to impact your water bill, but 400+ gallons per year certainly is.

Replacing a leaking faucet is easy

There is no way to overstate the importance of clean water. As our population grows and our infrastructure ages, it becomes more expensive to treat and deliver healthy, safe and clean drinking water. By repairing or replacing dripping faucets, you can not only reduce your water consumption (and your water bill), but also ease the burden of treating and delivering clean water in our area.

If you have a lot of dripping faucets in your home, you may be experiencing an over-pressure issue. The municipal water supply operates at a certain pressure to ensure that everyone always gets all of the water they need. That pressure is generally too high for residential plumbing. Over time, this high-pressure condition can deteriorate the water valves in your system. As the valves deteriorate, leaks develop. It is possible to reduce the pressure inside your home by adding a special regulator to your pipes. The regulator will throttle back the municipal water pressure to better match the capabilities of your plumbing fixtures. Over time, this can reduce the wear on your plumbing fixtures and delay or eliminate the development of leaks.

If you’d like help with fixing a leaking faucet or reducing the water pressure in your home, please give us a call at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to set up an appointment.

Photo Credit: Denise Rowlands, via Flickr

Barrier free plumbing can enhance your home

Most people don’t consider barrier free homes until they need to. Generally, homes aren’t initially constructed with accessibility in mind. Modifying a home to eliminate barriers for wheelchair-dependent individuals can represent fundamental changes to a home’s layout.

Beyond modifying entryways and doorways, barrier free designs must take the home’s plumbing into account. Older homes may require extensive interior remodeling to widen spaces, reduce fixture heights and eliminate barriers to toileting and showering. The same is true of newer homes that feature traditional room designs and fixtures.

The good news is that once a home has been redesigned to support accessibility, the value of the home rises significantly. What exactly is involved in barrier free plumbing?

Barrier free plumbing: toilets

Barrier free toilets often mount directly to the wall, rather than the floor. Floor—mounted barrier free toilets are generally taller than a standard toilet. This better accommodates transfers from a wheelchair to the toilet and back. The alternative is to mount the toilet directly to a wall. Installing a wall mounted toilet offers some flexibility with regard to height. You can determine the best height for your particular needs. Wall mounted toilets also require the soil pipe to be moved into the wall. In addition, the tank and the plumbing needed to flush and fill the toilet are also hidden in the wall.

Wall mounted toilets can also offer options for homeowners with very small bathrooms, or those with non-standard soil pipe rough-ins. By removing the soil pipe altogether from the floor, a wall mounted toilet makes the most of a small space. Their design also can increase the available floor space by as much as 10 inches over a standard toilet.

Wall-mounted toilets are built to withstand loads in excess of 800 pounds, so there’s no danger of the toilet collapsing from the user’s weight. These toilets can also offer amenities like hands-free flushing, pushbutton flushing and remote flushing. In addition, removable panels allow easy access to the interior fixtures for maintenance and repair. As an added bonus, wall mounted toilets are also easier to clean.

Toilets aren’t the only wall-hung fixtures you can install. You can also find wall mounted bidets and urinals that offer similar benefits. Although you might think of these fixtures as “commercial” options, you can find several designed for residential use.

Barrier-free sinks

An accessible bathroom will also require a barrier free sink. Many ADA-compliant sinks feature an off-set drain. This enables the sink to meet ADA compliance regulations, which have minimum height and depth requirements. The key to a barrier free sink is the amount of open space under the fixture to accommodate wheelchairs. ADA regulations don’t require the sink plumbing to be in the wall. Many people find this approach to be an easy way to meet ADA space regulations, however.

Barrier free showers

Well done barrier free shower designs can enhance the utility, appearance and value of your home. Many people are moving to barrier free designs, even when accessibility isn’t necessary. The most important things to remember about barrier free shower designs is that they’re very individual to the home. You can create an accessible full bathroom using a relatively small amount of space. Rain heads can help limit water spray by dropping water from the ceiling, instead of spraying from a showerhead. Special drains can also help capture and drain water. Many people who opt for barrier free showers are opting for “one-level” wet rooms that have a single level floor. These rooms are equipped to manage water, regardless of where it makes contact with the walls or floors.

If you’d like more information about accessible plumbing for your home, please give us a call at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to show you your options.

Photo Credit: Francie’s photos, via Flickr

Use a licensed contractor for plumbing repairs

When your home needs plumbing repairs that you can’t (or don’t want to) tackle yourself, you normally hire professional help. Anytime you hire a professional to do repair work, it will cost you more than it would if you did the work yourself. That’s a given. But you should verify the qualifications of your plumbing repair professional before you let them in your door.

Recently, a property owner in Connecticut contacted a home warranty company to perform covered repairs on a leaking water valve. The company provided a contractor, who came to the property and performed the repair.

Unfortunately, the contractor wasn’t licensed to perform plumbing repairs, and his work resulted in a small house fire. Molten solder ignited some debris under the home’s boiler, which was next to the washing machine with the faulty valve.

The home didn’t burn down, and no one was injured, but the home required significant repairs as a result of the fire. Fire officials investigating the blaze determined that the contractor had no current licenses. Further, they found that the state had revoked his previous licenses in 2006.

Checking up on your contractor

Massachusetts requires any person performing plumbing repairs for compensation to have a current license and insurance. Professional plumbers must undergo extensive training that includes both classroom education and on-the-job training before they can be licensed. Plumbers in training must work under the license and supervision of a master plumber. In addition, they must carry special insurance to provide plumbing services.

Massachusetts makes it easy to check the credentials of any person who provides plumbing services. If you have a plumbing problem and want to hire a plumber, please take the time to verify the person’s professional license status.

This tool enables you to select the type of professional license you want to verify. In the case of plumbers, we are certified by the Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters. (Second from the bottom on the pull-down list.) Enter the contractor’s name and the system will verify that the professional is currently licensed. You can select the licensed professional from the list and see the status of the person’s license. In addition, in the Public Documents section below the individual’s record, you can check for any negative actions.

The price of a repair shouldn’t be your only consideration. To protect the safety and well-being of your home and family, check a contractor’s credentials!

If you need help with a plumbing or heating and cooling repair in your home, contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’re licensed, bonded and insured and we’re happy to help!

Thawing frozen pipes

Like just about everything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to thaw frozen pipes. Here are a few tips to keep your pipes from freezing in the first place. We also have some advice for thawing a pipe that’s already frozen.

Keep your pipes from freezing

The best way to deal with frozen pipes is to avoid them altogether. Heating your home can be expensive, and it’s tempting to “dial down” at night and when you’re not around. When the air temperature is super-cold (below freezing), your pipes can be at risk.

Pipes break when the water inside them freezes. Most plumbing is rigid, so the pipes are full of standing water when the taps are closed. This is good because a pipe that’s full of water doesn’t have any air. Air in the system could allow bacteria to thrive, and it could also change the water pressure.

Unfortunately, water expands when it freezes. In an open container, the freezing water has “head space” – room to expand. In a water pipe, there is no room for expansion. An ice blockage forms somewhere in your pipe and begins to exert enormous pressure – as high as 2,000 PSI – on the unfrozen water between the blockage and the tap. Traditional plumbing does not have enough material strength to hold back this unrelenting pressure. As the blockage grows, the pressure increases. Because the pipe is rigid, it cannot expand enough, and it will deform and split somewhere to relieve the pressure.

The first thing you can do to avoid frozen pipes is to keep your pipes warm! Insulate them to prevent cold air intrusions from affecting your pipes. Open sink cabinet and vanity doors to allow warmer air to circulate around your pipes. Open heat registers in the basement (if your pipes are below-grade) to let more warm air circulate around them.

Don’t turn the heat down when it’s super-cold outside. Yes, your utility bill will go up, but a higher heating bill beats flooding, water damage and mold.

Managing a frozen pipe

If a pipe freezes and it’s accessible, open the tap immediately to drain any water from the pipe. This may relieve some of the pressure, but you’re not out of the woods yet. Start warming the pipe from the tap and work your way toward the blockage. A good safe heat source is an incandescent light bulb. A hair dryer may also help loosen up a frozen pipe. Be especially careful if you use “heat tape.” Used incorrectly, it can cause a fire!

DO NOT USE AN OPEN FLAME TO THAW A FROZEN PIPE! That includes welding and soldering torches, cigarette lighters, charcoal lighters, tiki torches, candles or anything else fiery. Open flames caused 30% of house fires in 2017. It’s just not a good idea!

You may not initially know that a pipe has frozen, but lack of water should set off alarm bells! If you get no water from a tap, or a water appliance stops working, If you open a tap and get just a trickle of water – your pipe is in the process of freezing. Act fast to relieve the pressure and correct the problem.

On the other hand, you may know your pipe has frozen because it has already split and there’s water everywhere! In this case, turn off the water to that segment of pipe and begin the process of thawing. Start drying out anything that’s gotten wet. You may have to remove drywall, plaster, carpeting or flooring. You won’t be able to turn the water back on until the pipe is repaired, but at least you can limit the water damage.

Following up on a frozen pipe

Maybe you were able to get your pipe thawed out before it split. That’s a lucky break, but your pipe is probably still damaged. The pressure can weaken and deform your pipe – and maybe not in the place(s) you’d expect. Remember, 2,000 PSI is about 20 times the pressure your pipes are designed to handle.

Inspect your pipes for deformed joints, bulges, discolorations, little drips or anything generally weird-looking. Formerly frozen pipes that “burst” usually have a little slit someplace, often somewhere other than where the blockage formed. It will look like someone took a box cutter and made a slice in the pipe. (You’ll be able to find these more easily, because water will be spraying all over the place!)

Don’t forget to check any PEX hoses that supply water to toilets, sinks and appliances. These can freeze too! PEX resists freezing, but the fittings can get damaged. If you find a frozen PEX hose, take comfort in the fact that they’re cheap to replace.

If you’ve experienced a frozen pipe, or need help repairing freeze-damaged plumbing, contact us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to help!

Photo Credit: Cynthia Closkey, via Flickr

When Should You Call A Plumber?

Indoor plumbing is possibly the most influential invention of the modern world, and most of the time, it just works. But your plumbing does require maintenance at times. Many people don’t recognize the signs of a developing plumbing problem and get caught off guard by an unexpected repair. Here are a few trouble signs to look for.

Three reasons to call a plumber

Low water pressure. Low water pressure is a sign that something’s wrong with your water supply. Usually, “city water” arrives at your home under a lot of pressure. Municipal systems need higher pressure to ensure that the water get all the way to everyone’s taps. This means – if anything – that your water pressure should be on the high side.

When your water pressure is low, that’s a sign of trouble. If a nearby municipal supply line breaks, it will affect your water pressure. Contact your local water authority for further directions. The utility may instruct you to turn off your home’s main water valve while they’re repairing the break. Additionally, they may instruct you to boil drinking water to kill any harmful organisms that may have invaded the system. They may also ask you to open all of your taps once they’ve resolved the break to flush the lines.

If the municipal supply lines aren’t broken, then the trouble is in your pipes. Mineralization and corrosion inside your pipes and plumbing fixtures can reduce the overall flow of water to your taps. This is usually a condition that develops over a long period of time. Initially, you might not notice pressure or flow problems at all. If pressure problems affect only one particular tap, simply replace the affected fixture with a new one.

If all taps exhibit low pressure, you could have a major leak or your pipes could be corroding inside. Corrosion and mineral buildup reduce the diameter of the pipe and restrict water flow. These conditions can eventually completely seal a pipe. Mineral deposits can be dissolved, but corrosion is permanent damage, so you should replace the affected pipe.

Drain problems

Drains are a critical part of your plumbing system. A malfunctioning drain can pose a serious health and safety risk. Drains can clog for a number of reasons. Bacteria and organic films grow in your drains. As they accumulate, they can catch hair and other debris. Add a steady flow of soap residue, and you have the makings of a great clog. Chemical drain cleaners may dissolve a clog, but they can also damage your pipes. You can mechanically snake out the drain to remove the clog, or you can use enzymatic drain cleaners. Enzymatic drain cleaners literally eat the clog and clear the drain. You could also perform periodic drain maintenance by dumping a cup of baking soda down your drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. This combination will kill the organic growth in the drain and help keep it flowing freely.

Clogs aren’t the only problem you can encounter with a drain. Leaks (which are always bad), mineralization and corrosion can also slow or stop drains. In addition, chemicals you dispose of down the drain can damage them, and drains can also freeze. Breaks in your main drain can also cause sewage backups and spills, which are never pleasant. Powdered detergents can also reconstitute in drains, causing partial or complete blockages.

Most homeowners are well equipped to deal with a run-of-the-mill clog. Larger drain problems – like leaks, breaks, and non-organic blockages may require more tools and expertise to address!

Wet spots, peeling paint, buckling floors=plumbing leak

Plumbing leaks can occur anywhere, but they’re not always easy to find. Often the first sign of a leak is a water spot that appears on a wall, floor or ceiling. Leaks can be slow and steady, or they can cause floods. Leaking toilets can damage the surrounding floor. You may not notice this until the tile or floor covering gives way. Leaking fixtures in the shower or behind the wall can also cause a steady stream of water to escape. Over time, this water can promote mold growth and rot on walls and floors. Addressing the leak is Job #1. Once you’ve identified the leak and repaired it, cleaning up the damage comes next.

Leaks can be DIY repairs, depending on what’s actually leaking. If you have copper plumbing but you have no experience with soldering, you may want to call a plumber. The fire danger here is very real. The National Fire Prevention Association says that plumbing torches are one of the top ten causes of residential fires every year. In fact, nearly 30% of residential fires between 2010 and 2014 in the United States involved torches. About half of those fires started in the bathroom! Licensed plumbers are trained to solder in tight spaces. We also carry insurance that will protect you and your home from unnecessary risks.

If you’re experiencing any plumbing problems, we’re here to help. Call us at Boston Standard Company at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to diagnose and repair your plumbing problems!

Photo Credit: IndyDina with Mr. Wonderful, via Flickr